All the right pieces

New Zealand Truck & Driver - - Fleet Focus -

SELF-DE­SCRIBED “EN­GINE NUT” PHILIP WRIGHT – the new gen­eral man­ager of Cum­mins New Zealand – was orig­i­nally a me­chanic by trade…and he ap­proaches life from a prac­ti­cal, hands-on per­spec­tive.

“If all the right pieces are there and you put some­thing to­gether cor­rectly, it works. That ap­plies to busi­ness too.”

Aus­tralian Wright has been with Cum­mins for 23 years – longer than he’s been mar­ried. In his time with the world’s largest in­de­pen­dent diesel en­gine man­u­fac­turer, he’s worked his way up from tech­ni­cian to ser­vice man­ager, on to branch man­ager…and all the way to the top job in NZ.

He puts his in­ter­est in en­gines down to his fa­ther: “I grew up around trucks. My Dad and un­cle had a milk­tanker busi­ness in New South Wales.

“My Mum was adamant that I do an ap­pren­tice­ship be­fore join­ing the fam­ily busi­ness. By the time I got a chance to go back, the dairy in­dus­try was dereg­u­lated” – so he went to work for Cum­mins.

“My Dad al­ways had Cum­mins en­gines, so the com­pany was a nat­u­ral fit.”

His move from Australia to NZ to take on the GM role here sees Wright happy to em­brace a new ad­ven­ture. He cites the pri­mary chal­lenge for the truck­ing in­dus­try as the de­cline in skilled work­ers.

“Dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tions have dif­fer­ent ex­pec­ta­tions,” he com­ments: “The younger gen­er­a­tion don’t want to build

up as ap­pren­tices any­more. They want to start at the top.”

To com­pen­sate for this, he says, Cum­mins has had to change its per­spec­tive and its re­cruit­ment ap­proach, broad­en­ing the de­mo­graphic pool and em­brac­ing di­ver­sity – em­ploy­ing more women, for in­stance.

“As part of this ap­proach we spend time in schools pro­mot­ing the in­dus­try. We have ded­i­cated apprentice man­agers, train­ing providers and in­ter­nal train­ers com­mit­ted to the process.”

As for how Cum­mins will con­tinue to thrive in the in­dus­try as more truck­mak­ers take en­gine man­u­fac­ture in-house, Wright points out that “we pro­vide so­lu­tions and make it easy for man­u­fac­tur­ers to sell our prod­uct. Added to that, cus­tomer loy­alty is al­ways a strong point.”

He em­pha­sises though, that in terms of man­u­fac­ture, the fo­cus thus far has been driven by ex­haust emis­sions reg­u­la­tions – and there is only “so much” that can still be done to re­duce the emis­sions from diesel com­bus­tion en­gines and to im­prove their fuel ef­fi­ciency.

Which means look­ing to al­ter­na­tive power sources:

“If we don’t want to go the way of Ko­dak, the fu­ture is in elec­tri­fi­ca­tion. We have al­ready done a proof of con­cept of an elec­tric truck but need to find a way to com­mer­cialise that.

“We are turn­ing our fo­cus to new tech­nolo­gies to ben­e­fit cus­tomers. It’s an ex­cit­ing time.”

Nonethe­less, Cum­mins will al­ways be a pow­er­train provider: “It comes down to horses for cour­ses. We will keep of­fer­ing what­ever cus­tomers need, be it elec­tric, diesel or a hy­brid of the two.”

In terms of its diesel of­fer­ing, the com­pany re­cently re­branded its 15 litre en­gine as the X15 – and that’s per­form­ing well, says Wright. It is also tri­alling the Euro 6 ver­sion of the 15 litre en­gine in Australia at the mo­ment.

An­other plus for the fu­ture is that Cum­mins en­gines are man­u­fac­tured around the world and the econ­omy of scale helps prof­itabil­ity: “We are global now – no longer just a US com­pany – and we have the global strengths that come with that.”

He adds that the South Pa­cific mar­ket is seen as a test­ing ground: “If some­thing’s go­ing to break, it will be here.”

Cum­mins’ busi­ness in NZ is, of course, about sales, parts and ser­vice – not man­u­fac­ture: “Sup­ply­ing en­gines to the au­to­mo­tive space, we part­ner with con­sul­tants and sup­pli­ers via our three com­pany-owned lo­ca­tions in Auck­land, the Bay of Plenty and Palmer­ston North. We also have a sup­port­ive dealer net­work.”

He says the lo­cal chal­lenge will con­tinue to be about driv­ing ef­fi­ciency through the trans­port sec­tor: “Part of that will be tech­nol­ogy and other as­pects will in­clude in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ment and gov­ern­ment strat­egy around trans­port so­lu­tions.”

He ex­plains that in Australia, as con­sump­tion has in­creased in ma­jor cen­tres, prod­ucts ar­riv­ing at a port tend to be con­sumed within that area – “so the role of freight has changed in the past 10 years. In NZ the pop­u­la­tion is smaller and there are still dis­tri­bu­tion cen­tres away from the ports.”

And NZ’s grow­ing ex­port trade means a con­tin­u­ing re­liance on road trans­port and its likely growth, in line with ex­port de­mand.

Wright points out that Cum­mins will be 100 years old next year – but still main­tains the strong values its founders em­braced: “That’s what’s kept me here for 23 years. It’s not just about mak­ing a profit – it’s about the em­ploy­ees, the cus­tomers, the en­vi­ron­ment….even com­mu­nity work.

“This place aligns with my own morals and values.

It’s been a big part of my life and given me lots of op­por­tu­ni­ties,” says Wright.

His phi­los­o­phy is that if y ou look af­ter the cus­tomer and your em­ploy­ees, the busi­ness will look af­ter it­self: “Any busi­ness is only as good as its peo­ple,” he says. T&D

New Cum­mins NZ boss Philip Wright says he got his love of en­gines from his Dad (who he’s with be­low), who ran a milk­tanker eet in New South Wales when Philip was a kid

Above left: Wright re­ceives an award from the NSW Ru­ral Fire Ser­vice on be­half of Cum­minsAbove right: Wright says Cum­mins will al­ways be a pow­er­train sup­plier – be that elec­tric, diesel or hy­brid

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